By Nia Williams
(Reuters) - The Canadian government on Thursday released interim guidance on a key environmental law it is amending after the Supreme Court ruled the legislation was largely unconstitutional, adding some clarity after companies warned the uncertainty could deter investments.
Canada's Supreme Court dealt a blow to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government earlier this month by striking down most of the Impact Assessment Act (IAA), a federal law assessing how major projects such as coal mines and oil sands plants impact the environment.
In its decision, the court said the federal government had made the scope of the IAA too broad by including, or designating, certain projects that would typically fall under provincial jurisdiction.
"As we work to make targeted amendments to the IAA to bring it in line with the Supreme Court of Canada's opinion, today's interim guidance aims to provide clarity to investors and businesses in the immediate term," federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in a statement.
The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) will now look at all 23 projects currently under assessment and give an opinion on whether they impact areas of federal jurisdiction.
Consultations with Indigenous communities will continue and project proponents can continue sharing information to advance their assessments, IAAC said, but the federal government's discretionary authority to designate certain projects as needing to go through an impact assessment will be paused.
Three regional assessments already underway, on the Ring of Fire mineral deposits in northern Ontario and offshore wind projects in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, will continue because they are only seeking to understand impacts, the agency said.
(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Marguerita Choy)